Defendant appeals judgment convicting him of possession of firearm by felon. For the following reasons, we find no error.
Defendant was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon based upon an investigation conducted by Officer Charles Britt of the fraud unit of the Durham Police Department Investigations Bureau. Officer Britt testified that he "download[s] pawn [shop] files every morning and check[s] for stolen property[.]" "[A]t the end of every month [Officer Britt] run[s] all firearms that are pawned at the pawn shops in Durham. Then [Officer Britt] check[s] to see if either persons that have sold or pawned firearms are convicted felons." In 2011, Officer Britt picked up a buy transaction ("buy ticket")
II. Defendant's Signature
Defendant first contends that "the trial court committed error or plain error in allowing the signature on the affidavit to be compared to the signature on the buy ticket where the signatures on the documents were not sufficiently authenticated nor ruled to be sufficiently similar to each other in violation of ... [defendant's] rights." (Original in all caps.) Defendant's arguments are based upon the comparison of his signature on the buy ticket and his affidavit; defendant claims that each signature required authentication by either an expert in handwriting analysis or by a witness who was familiar with his handwriting based upon knowledge gained outside of this case in order for the jury to be able to compare them. Defendant is correct that no witness testified who could identify the signatures as an expert or based upon familiarity with defendant's signature outside of the case, but we disagree with defendant that such testimony was necessary.
A. Affidavit of Indigency
The State's last witness was "a Deputy Clerk with the Durham County Superior
B. Comparison of Defendant's Signature
State v. Owen, 130 N.C. App. 505, 509, 503 S.E.2d 426, 429 (1998) (citations and quotation marks omitted) (citing State v. LeDuc, 306 N.C. 62, 291 S.E.2d 607 (1982)), disc. review denied and appeal dismissed, 349 N.C. 372, 525 S.E.2d 187, 88 (1998).
In State v. LeDuc, the case cited in Owen, id., the Supreme Court noted that the "preliminary determinations[,]" both of whether one of the handwritings was genuine and whether the genuine and disputed handwritings were similar, were to be made by the trial court. 306 N.C. 62, 74, 291 S.E.2d 607, 614 (1982), overruled on other grounds, State v. Childress, 321 N.C. 226, 362 S.E.2d 263 (1987). Yet the Court also stated that "[b]oth of these preliminary determinations by the trial judge are questions of law fully reviewable on appeal." Id. Thus in LeDuc, this Court itself made "these preliminary determinations[.]" Id. ("In the instant case, the samples shown to the jury for comparison with the disputed charter were given by the defendant himself. Having examined these samples with the disputed signature on the charter, we are satisfied that there is enough similarity between them for the documents to have been submitted to the jury for its comparison.") In Owen, this Court noted that both the trial court and this Court itself had compared the genuine and disputed handwritings. See Owen, 130 N.C.App. at 509, 503 S.E.2d at 429-30.
Thus, we must review the evidence to determine if there was "enough similarity between them for the documents to have been submitted to the jury for its comparison." LeDuc, 306 N.C. at 74, 291 S.E.2d at 614. The "known sample" of the signature, found on defendant's self-authenticating affidavit, see N.C. Gen.Stat. § 8C-1, Rule 902, shows the signature of "Pierce E. McKoy[.]"
III. Motion to Dismiss
Defendant next contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss. Defendant argues that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that he either actually or constructively possessed the gun which was sold to the pawn shop.
State v. Mitchell, ___ N.C.App. ___, 735 S.E.2d 438, 442-43 (2012) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Here, as in Mitchell, defendant does not contest that he has previously been convicted of a felony, so possession is the only element at issue on appeal. See id. at, 735 S.E.2d at 443. Taken in a light most favorable to the State, see Teague, 216 N.C.App. at 105, 715 S.E.2d at 923, the State presented a DVD showing a man consistent with defendant's appearance placing a gun on the pawn shop counter. The State's evidence also included a buy ticket with both defendant's name and date of birth on it along with defendant's affidavit uncontestably signed by defendant. A director of operations for the pawn shop explained that the individual signing the buy ticket at issue here is "literally relinquishing [his] rights to the merchandise immediately[,]" in this case the gun. As discussed above, the jury could find based upon comparison of the signatures on the affidavit and the buy ticket that the same person signed both of them, meaning that the person who placed the gun on the counter of the pawn shop, sold the gun to the pawn shop, and filled out the buy ticket, was the defendant. This evidence would permit the jury to find that the defendant actually possessed the gun when he brought it to the pawn shop to sell it. This was substantial evidence upon which to deny defendant's motion to dismiss, see Mitchell, ___ N.C.App. at ___, 735 S.E.2d at 443; Teague, 216 N.C.App. at 105, 715 S.E.2d at 923, and therefore overrule this argument.
IV. Jury Instructions
Before defendant's trial he stipulated in writing as to his prior felony conviction. When the trial court was instructing the jury it stated,
Defendant failed to object at trial, but now contends it was plain error for the trial court to inform the jury he had previously been convicted of the crime possession of a firearm by a felon. In light of the evidence as
For the foregoing reasons, we find no error.
Judges HUNTER, JR., ROBERT N. and DILLON concur.